Dawn over the Moscow River

Posted in Opera with tags , , , , on September 22, 2017 by telescoper

If the world doesn’t come to an end tomorrow, around 7pm I hope to be in my seat at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay for the start of Khovanschina performed by Welsh National Opera, it being the first night of their new season.

Khovanschina, composed by Modest Mussorgsky, is not a particular well-known opera but the lovely Prelude to Act I is performed fairly often as a concert piece with the title Dawn Over the Moscow River. Here it is, played in 1991 by the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre conducted by Valery Gergiev:

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The Autumnal Equinox

Posted in Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2017 by telescoper

So here we are then. The Autumnal Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) takes place this evening, at 21.02 BST (20.02 GMT) at which point the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk. This is traditionally taken to be the end of summer. It was a lovely morning in Cardiff, sunny and warm. Looking back over the posts I’ve written at this time of year since I started blogging in 2008, it’s notable how many times we’ve had a period of good weather around the autumnal equinox. The local traditional name for this is the `Little Summer of St Michael’. Anyway, here’s am excerpt from the post I wrote in 2008 on this:

The weather is unsettling. It’s warm, but somehow the warmth doesn’t quite fill the air; somewhere inside it there’s a chill that reminds you that autumn is not far away.

I find this kind of weather a bit spooky because it always takes me back to the time when I left home to go to University, as thousands of fledgling students are about to do this year in their turn.

This morning I had some business to attend to near my home. In fact it was in an office in Temple Court on Cathedral Road. I hadn’t been there before and it was only when I got there that I realised that the building used to be a synagogue. Opened in 1897 this was built at the same time as the grand houses on Cathedral Road. It hasn’t been used as a synagogue for some time, and the building has been substantially extended at the rear, but it is still a Grade II listed building.

My little errand completed I decided to make the most of the weather by watching the morning’s play on the last day of the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire at the SSE Swalec Stadium in Sophia Gardens. Some playing was lost yesterday because of rain; the forecast had suggested a complete washout, but the rain cleared much earlier than predicted. Glamorgan had been all out for 442 in their first innings. Gloucestershire found batting pretty comfortable but lost a flurry of wickets on Thursday afternoon and ended up declaring on 399 for 8 after 110 overs to have a go at Glamorgan for 15 overs late on. They had an early success with the ball, removing Brown for 13, with the score on 15, but opener Nick Selman and Andrew Salter, promoted to No. 3, took them to the close. I watched them bat together all the way to lunch, as Glamorgan proceeded serenely to 154 for 1.

Here are the players going off for lunch:

The game seems to be drifting to a draw, the likelihood of which is increased even further by the fact that rain is forecast this afternoon, so it wasn’t the most exciting cricket I’ve ever watched, but it’s good to end the season with Glamorgan doing well. A sudden declaration with 40-50 overs left might give Glamorgan the chance of a win, but the pitch is very flat and I can’t see a result being forced. I’m pretty sure the plan is to give Glamorgan’s batsmen a chance to build up a bit of confidence for next season. I just checked the score, in fact, to find that Nick Selman has scored a century, which will do him a power of good!

Our new students arrive for `induction’ next week – including the new PhD students involved with our Centre for Doctoral Training who will be attending a Launch Event that starts on Sunday afternoon. I have a few last-minute jobs to do connected with that this afternoon so I’d better get on with them if I want to get finished so I can enjoy the first Amser Jazz Time of the new season!

Knitted Omnibus

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 21, 2017 by telescoper

The inestimable Miss Lemon, who occasionally operates under the pseudonym Dorothy Lamb, has sent me a picture of her latest knitting exploits, i.e. two buses in the livery of the Brighon & Hove Bus Company!

They add a whole new meaning to the term `bendy bus’!

To find out what inspired these contributions please see related the University of Sussex news item here.

Free Will in the Theory of Everything

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on September 21, 2017 by telescoper

There’s a very thoughtful and provocative paper on the arXiv by Gerard tHooft, who (jointly) won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1999. It’s well worth reading, even if you decide you don’t agree with him!

From what is known today about the elementary particles of matter, and the forces that control their behavior, it may be observed that still a host of obstacles must be overcome that are standing in the way of further progress of our understanding. Most researchers conclude that drastically new concepts must be investigated, new starting points are needed, older structures and theories, in spite of their successes, will have to be overthrown, and new, superintelligent questions will have to be asked and investigated. In short, they say that we shall need new physics. Here, we argue in a different manner. Today, no prototype, or toy model, of any so-called Theory of Everything exists, because the demands required of such a theory appear to be conflicting. The demands that we propose include locality, special and general relativity, together with a fundamental finiteness not only of the forces and amplitudes, but also of the set of Nature’s dynamical variables. We claim that the two remaining ingredients that we have today, Quantum Field Theory and General Relativity, indeed are coming a long way towards satisfying such elementary requirements. Putting everything together in a Grand Synthesis is like solving a gigantic puzzle. We argue that we need the correct analytical tools to solve this puzzle. Finally, it seems to be obvious that this solution will give room neither for “Divine Intervention”, nor for “Free Will”, an observation that, all by itself, can be used as a clue. We claim that this reflects on our understanding of the deeper logic underlying quantum mechanics.

The full paper can be downloaded here.

Song of Creation

Posted in Poetry with tags , on September 20, 2017 by telescoper

Then there was neither Aught nor Nought, no air nor sky beyond.
What covered all? Where rested all? In watery gulf profound?
Nor death was then, nor deathlessness, nor change of night and day.
That One breathed calmly, self-sustained; nought else beyond it lay.

Gloom hid in gloom existed first – one sea, eluding view.
That One, a void in chaos wrapt, by inward fervour grew.
Within it first arose desire, the primal germ of mind,
Which nothing with existence links, as sages searching find.

The kindling ray that shot across the dark and drear abyss-
Was it beneath? or high aloft? What bard can answer this?
There fecundating powers were found, and mighty forces strove-
A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.

Who knows, who ever told, from whence this vast creation rose?
No gods had then been born – who then can e’er the truth disclose?
Whence sprang this world, and whether framed by hand divine or no-
Its lord in heaven alone can tell, if even he can show.

Translated by John Muir from the original (anonymous) Sanskrit text of a hymn.

September at Sophia Gardens

Posted in Cricket, Uncategorized on September 19, 2017 by telescoper

Since it was a fine evening I popped in at the SSE SWALEC Stadium in Sophia Gardens on the way home from work to catch the last few overs of Day 1 of the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire.

For a change, and despite  losing two quick wickets while I watched,  Glamorgan are in a reasonably strong position at 342 for 7 off 96 overs at the end of Day 1, with young Kiran Carlson unbeaten on 137. That’s not bad considering that, having been put in to bat, they had been 63 for 4 at one stage.

It’s been a disappointing season in the County Championship for Glamorgan, who have only won two games out of 12 so far, and there’s not much at stake in this game, but I hope they can get a good result in this, their last game of the season in Cardiff.

A Fellow’s Diary 

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 19, 2017 by telescoper

Yet another sign that Autumn is on the way arrived yesterday in the form of my new Royal Astronomical Society diary, which comes with the subscription. This runs from October to October so each year’s new edition usually comes in September. I say `usually’ because mine didn’t come at all last year. It probably got lost in a muddle when I changed address back to Cardiff from Sussex. Each year’s version is usually a different colour from the previous one too. This time it’s a sort of bottle green.

Anyway, although many of my colleagues seem not to use them, I like old-fashioned diaries like this. I do run an electronic calendar for work-related events, meetings etc, but I use the paper one to scribble down extra-curricular activities such as concerts and cricket fixtures, as I find the smartphone version of my electronic calendar a bit fiddly.

Anyway, I’m interested to know the extent to which I am an old fogey so here’s a little poll on the subject of diaries: